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Oct 7, 2013 10:02 PM by Samantha Ptashkin

Vicki Lynne's killer heads to court to get new sentencing

TUCSON- It has been more than 29 years since eight-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and murdered in Tucson.

But Frank Jarvis Atwood, the man convicted of killing her, is still in the court system.

Atwood has been on Arizona's death row since 1987.

He says his lawyer did a bad job representing him at his sentencing. Atwood says if there was a medical expert to testify he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at the time of the murder, he would have received life in prison, rather than a death sentence.

Up until now all of Atwood's appeals have been denied.

His hearing in federal court started at 9am Monday morning. Judge John Coughenour, from Washington, has been brought in to handle the hearing. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

Vicki Lynne's mother, Debbie Carlson and her older sister, Stephanie Hoskinson Brandt, flew in from Montana to attend the hearing. Several other family members and friends were also in court. Many wore yellow, which was Vicki's favorite color.

Throughout the day Vicki Lynne was rarely mentioned. Instead the focus was on Atwood's troubling mental history, which includes cases where he was sexually abused, as well as extensive drug abuse.

The defense's key witness, Psychiatrist Donna Schwartz-Watts from South Carolina, was the first to take the stand. She is supposed to prove Atwood suffered from PTSD when he murdered Vicki Lynne.

But a couple hours into the hearing, a major blow to the defense. The prosecutor was cross-examining Schwartz-Watts, when she basically admitted Atwood may not have suffered from PTSD at the time of Vicki Lynne's murder.

The court also heard from the prosecutor's key witness, Psychologist Erin Nelson, who is based in Scottsdale. Dr. Nelson says Atwood exhibits anti-social personality disorder, but as far as PTSD, she says it seems to have developed while Atwood was on death row.

Atwood also had supporters in court, including his wife, Rachel Lee Tenny, who he married while on death row, as well as the Reverend John R. Smith, of St. Michael's in Tucson.

Smith tells News 4 Tucson he has visited Atwood in prison every month for the past 26 years.

Both Smith and Tenny didn't wish to comment on the hearing.

The proceedings will continue at 9am Tuesday morning.

Judge Coughenour will not be issuing a final decision for another few weeks. The decision will be submitted electronically.

Stay with News 4 Tucson as Kristi Tedesco and Samantha Ptashkin continue providing team coverage of the hearing.

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